Sunday, July 02, 2006

And Still The World Cup Rolls Along...

via BBDO

Upon more sober reflection, if a team can't score in 90 or 120 minutes (even with 10 men), do they deserve to advance? Poor old England certainly looked better against Portugal than they had in any of the earlier games (oddly improving even more after Rooney was sent off) but by the time extra time was up I knew that the dream was over. There is something about the arbitary nature of penalties that doesn't sit well with the English footballer, and it showed in the efforts of Lampard, Gerrard, and Carragher, all so easily saved by Ricardo.

I'm no footie sage, but I have to say I had my misgivings when England coach Sven Goran Eriksson a) decided to start with the lone stiker 4-5-1 formation again despite the obvious benefits of sending two stikers up against Portugal's depleted and yellow-card plastered defence; and b) proclaimed that he wasn't going to make any stirring "Winston Churchill" speeches to his players, prefering to rely on the metrics of sports science to make his case to the team. Sven might be an incredibly rational and educated man versed in the ways of footballing geometry, but his charges (for the most part) left school at 16 to pursue a professional football career, have lived in a cossetted bubble of wealth ever since, and might well have responded to a little bit of pointing to the three lions on their chest by the professorial Swede. Perhaps if it was pitched to Eriksson as "motivational psychology" as opposed to "naked appeals to inane but potent patriotism on the 90th anniversary of the first day of the Somme" he might have gone for it. At least we won't have to read about "Sir Sven" this coming January.

Yet another torrid summer of nervous and unpleasant television viewing has gone by (it is never unmitigated fun to watch football when you have a dog in the hunt) without a trophy to show for it. Now I can half-relax and try to enjoy the remaining games, but with the caveat that I'm going to be afraid for the next couple of days or maybe the week that either Germany or Portugal will win the bloody thing. My desired outcome is that after caning Portugal France will take on Italy in the final and win (I do not want the Germans to get a sniff of that home advantage in Berlin) but seeing as my previous desired outcome was England winning I should probably keep quiet.

The one person I feel sorry for in all this- more than Beckham, more than Rooney, more than the justifiably tearful John Terry- is Scottish tennis player and British number one Andy Murray who beat the heavily favoured Andy Roddick at Wimbledon the same day England crashed out of the World Cup. Despite Murray's tongue-in-cheek anglophobia around the football, the poor lad is about to be deluged by a wave of pent-up patriotic fervor redirected towards him from the footie by the St George crossed elements of the Union Jack. Andy me ol' mucker, you are in for it now. Prepare for uncritial support and unbearable pressure until you lose, and then quickly skip town until the Ashes start and you are out of the frame.

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